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Rep. Ralph Norman Of South Carolina Pulled Out A Gun In A Constituent Meeting

"I'm tired of these liberals jumping on the guns themselves as if they are the cause of the problem. Guns are not the problem," Rep. Ralph Norman told a local paper following the incident.

Posted on April 7, 2018, at 4:32 p.m. ET

In a Friday meeting with constituents about gun control, Republican Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina pulled out a loaded gun and put it on the table.

Chuck Burton / AP

Norman left his gun on the table for "several minutes" while he “kept telling his constituents that the presence of the gun made them safer," according to the South Carolina chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which attended the meeting.

The incident occurred at a "coffee with constituents" meeting in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

"I'm not going to be a Gabby Giffords," Norman told the Post and Courier after the meeting, referring to the former Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, who was shot in the head in an assassination attempt in 2011.

"I don't mind dying, but whoever shoots me better shoot well or I'm shooting back," he told the paper.

Norman, who is currently running for reelection, reportedly holds a concealed carry permit and frequently brings his gun with him in public.

His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Lori Freemon, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action, called the incident a "far cry from what responsible gun ownership looks like."

"I had looked forward to a respectful dialogue with my representative about common-sense gun violence prevention policies," Freemon said in a statement. "Instead, I felt unsafe when he insisted on showing us his loaded gun and keeping it out on the table for much of our conversation.”

Norman said he has no regrets about the stunt and even plans to do it in future constituent meetings.

He also denied that anyone in the meeting had been scared of the presence of the gun, saying no one left the room or appeared to react strongly.

"I'm tired of these liberals jumping on the guns themselves as if they are the cause of the problem," Norman told the Post and Courier. "Guns are not the problem."

In a statement to Politico, Norman said that "Mental health, and more importantly, a lack of morality is the driving force behind this epidemic. Guns are not the problem."

On Saturday, Giffords struck back at Norman. "When 'leaders' make constituents feel unsafe, they have no place in elected office," she tweeted.

Serving in Congress is about listening and leadership, not intimidation and showmanship. When “leaders” make constituents feel unsafe, they have no place in elected office.

Her husband, retired astronaut and Navy Captain Mark Kelly, also responded on Friday. "When I think of Gabby Giffords, I think of courage and public service, not intimidating constituents. You're no Gabby," he tweeted.

When I think of @GabbyGiffords, I think of courage and public service, not intimidating constituents. You’re no Gabby, @RepRalphNorman. You pull out a gun when you are prepared and need to use it – not for a stunt.

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona also criticized Norman, saying his suggestion that Giffords wouldn't have been shot if she'd had a gun was "inappropriate and inconsiderate."

I sincerely hope you never have to experience what my friend @gabbygiffords experienced. But to suggest that she might have avoided being shot had she carried a weapon as she spoke to constituents that morning is inappropriate and inconsiderate.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.